Are you connected to your culture? What does that mean?


View of Gunbalanya from the top of Injalak
Coming home from my adventure in Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory, I didn’t experience the usual let down one often experiences after travelling and experiencing new things. For days afterwards my body had a ‘buzzing’ quality about it. Every night I dreamt about just being there, immersed in the richness of that place.

Identifying with Culture

I have often wondered what it would be like to belong to a definitive culture. Like many people who identify as being from ‘Western’ culture, I had little idea about what that means. The language I speak doesn’t feel unique or special as English is far from being unique, the clothes I wear are generic and it’s only when I’m singing nursery rhymes to my grandchildren that I am reminded that they, well some of them, hark from my ancestors.

I need to explain here that my childhood experience was that of living in England, Australia in the 50’s and 60’s, in New Guinea, and in boarding school in country Australia. I was blessed by the fact that my parents arranged our lives in a way that we met and played with indigenous children which was unusual at that time. People like to mix with those of their own culture where they feel they belong and are unchallenged in their ways and beliefs. So I am blessed with not having these barriers and at the same time wonder about my culture!

It seems to me that I mustn’t be alone in feeling disenfranchised from my ancestors and their culture as people migrate to other lands and adjust to the ways of their new home.

Connecting with ancestors


The Downs, Guildford, Surrey, England.
As my life progresses, I become more aware of how important it is to know who I am and where I come from. So it is that I recently returned to England to walk on the ‘Downs’ of Guildford where I was born, and soak up the energy of the circles at Avebury; conscious of my desire to connect with my ancestors. I returned with a greater sense of feeling my feet upon the ground and a knowing of who I am.

Immersed in a ‘definitive’ culture.

Sitting on the age old rocks at Number 2 Waterfall near Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory, the ancient spirit of the place seeped into my very being. The water in the waterhole lay still, only now and again rippled by the breeze. The trees protected us as we sat with our lunch in the open cave of rocks. Christine and Priscilla and Sylvia were stripping pandanus and I urged them to tell us some stories.


Christine at Number 2 Waterfall

With some hesitance at first, Christine began to tell us the story of the three-legged dog and her mate who made this place. One story led to another … Number one waterfall was made by her mate who dug so deep he released a water spout which shot him up into the air, trapping him into the rocks above …. and another….

When one reads these indigenous stories published in picture books, they are children’s stories; simplistic, colourful, explaining creation or giving a lesson. …. But as I sat there entranced, feeling the spirit of everything around us, I sensed a much deeper connection in the stories.

In ‘Western culture’ stories are fiction and fiction means that they aren’t true. We reassure ourselves that this is a fantasy world that we can only enter in dreams and even then, they aren’t true.


Storys shared at No 2 Waterfall.

Christine sharing stories.

092 - Arnhem Land - 2016 - Edited
Sitting here in this very place that holds the spirit of all that has happened over thousands of years, I could see the conviction of belief in the tellers’ eyes. They, and also myself as I listened, were connected deeply to the stories and, I believe, to the deeper meanings not revealed to the uninitiated outsiders. Many of these same stories that are published as children’s tales to entertain have more detailed versions that contain deeper meanings and truths relating the culture and memories of the people and the ancestors who own them.
Later we visited Number 1 Waterfall where the three legged dog’s mate dug a hole so deep that a waterspout erupted and shot him up and trapped him in the rocks above – can you see him in this picture? His head is in the corner where the angles meet.

Dog trapped in the corner of the rocks.

We are all one.

Indigenous stories are a large part of their culture especially because these were not ‘literate’ societies but ‘orality’ societies where information is memorised with the help of stories and paintings. I heard more stories when we climbed Injalak; a rocky outcrop viewed in its magnificence from Injalak Arts Centre in Gunbalanya. A beautiful place where women’s ceremonies are held, Injalak has at least 15 rock art galleries and is the place where long ago people went during the big wet to live out of the way of the flooding rains.


067 - Arnhem Land - 2016 - Edited
Gabriella was our special guide. As we sat below the image of the Creation Mother with her dilly bags, Gabriella told us how Creation Mother came in from the North bringing her dilly bags each of which contained all of the information that described each of the groups of people; their names, their skin names, their moiety to name a few. What struck me was that she shared with us that these were for all groups, white people included.


Gabriella telling the story of Creation Mother

13697225_10154989659106258_7158923581438759146_n

The Creation Mother is for all people. For me this was the moment when my culture merged with the indigenous culture of this land. We are all indeed one. The creator created all of us. It was absolutely confirming and beautiful to hear this from Gabriella as she told the story.

The shift in Universal energy that people are talking about describes how we are moving from being separate to coming together as one. This story, belonging to indigenous culture includes me; it changes me from being an outsider to being included, recognising the whole of world peoples as one.

The impact of the experience

The impact of being immersed in another culture as deeply as one can be, even if for a few days and when they are an outsider, was profound. For a small wink in time, I was embraced into this ancient culture. I felt and breathed the spirit of the place; the rocks, the water, the plants, the wind, the people. I connected with the ancestors of these people and the land; with my breath, my presence and through story.

 Where to now?

Back on home ground I am aware of how I will bring my experience together so that it enriches my personal culture on a daily basis. I feel that my ability to sense the environment around me; to be able to ‘read’ the energy, be conscious of it has become part of the way I am. I have learnt more about being at peace, taking time to absorband listen, and to connect with my ancestors too. … and as I’ve been writing a peewee bird, symbolic of my ancestors and those of this land has been walking beside me on the grass!

I said to our indigenous guide and companion, Christine, when I bade my farewells, “Our ancestors have met. We will always be connected after this beautiful experience.” and I believe this to be the truth.

Finding your personal culture is empowering as it is the outcome of really coming to know yourself. You may discover that some of the things you hold onto are fear-based beliefs that have been instilled by your family’s culture. When you know that what you truly believe serves you and your personal goodness and wellbeing you will find that you have come home to your personal chosen culture.

Here are some steps to begin the process.

  1. Learn to breathe. (Go to https://lifehealingjourneys.com.au for this information)

  2. Practice sitting and being – feeling and awareness of each element in your surroundings.

  3. Examine the things in your life that you take for granted. Decide whether they are true or have been imposed as the truth for someone else’s benefit. You can change your beliefs.

  4. Be aware of your values and check to see if your actions reflect them.

In Conclusion

Culture is what we choose to connect with and what resonates with ourselves personally. Some of us come from strong cultures that may overbear and dictate what they do in life and I wonder if this is all really culture? Culture is such a big word. For me, returning to my ancestral place in England and then experiencing connection to the land through the generosity of the indigenous people in Arnhem Land, I have a greater sense of my culture through my deep seated beliefs around Oneness, connection and the Spirit in all things. This effects the way I am, and in turn, the way I am with others with the intention being for the good of all – or One.

As always, if you think I can help you find your way, then please connect with me through phone, Facebook and website.


20160719_102712

Injalak rock gallery

Lightening man

20160719_101822

Some References:

  1. Injalak Arts Centre http://injalak.com/
  2. Lynne Kelly, “The Memory Code”  Allen & Unwin: 2016
  3. Louise Hambly, “Containers of Power: women with clever hands.” Utber&Patullo Pub: 2010.